It started in high school, working in my grandfather’s business. His view of life was simple: If you want food with your meals, you work. I learned what it took to make money. I liked it. In only a short time I was hooked. Pretty soon I was in college. I worked part time when all my friends were taking out student loans. I never joined a fraternity, knowing I might be discovered and become the object of ridicule.
After college it really got bad. Now I did not have school to keep me busy so I worked full time. I saved money. My life seemed good at times. Occasionally I would see others who did not have my problem and wonder what it was like. Friends sort of kept me at arm’s length, knowing how I lived on the edge. I really could not participate in their world. My life was dominated by the idea of providing for myself and my family.
Yes, my family. They have been as supportive as they can be. They know it is something I can’t control. Sometimes my wife complains when I work late at the office or on week-ends. My kids wish I could attend more of their school events. I worry that my kids’ friends will see the condition I am in. What if my kids follow me? I wonder if it is genetic.
They say the first step is admitting you have a problem. Actually, I never thought of myself as wealthy. I made a comfortable living, that’s all. Somehow that makes me a “Millionaire”. Not sure just how that math works. When I was younger we said “Most people work for a living; only some vote for one.” Now that seems reversed. Why do I feel like I have a bull’s eye painted on me? At times I got so low I thought about going on disability.
Last month, I think it was a Tuesday, I hit bottom. I realized how I my working affected my life and the lives of those around me as I stubbornly clung to idea of self-sufficiency. I resolved that I would finally, once and for all, give it up. The pressure had finally reached the tipping point. I could see that the day was near when I would be the only one working, shunned by everyone else.
I did not know if I could do it. But it has been a month now. I feel different. I no longer worry about my bills. Someone else will pay them, I guess. I sold my business and put some of the money left after taxes in lottery tickets. The odds seem about the same. My employees will be OK. They had seen this coming and were really no longer interested in working either.
My greatest fear is a lapse. After a lifetime of working I am afraid one day I will return to the office. I have nightmares at times. I know that there still are a few others in the condition I once was. My heart goes out to them.
But I am one of the lucky ones. I have a sponsor at the Benefits Office. Whenever I have that old feeling, am nearing the point where I might lose control and go back to work, I make a phone call and Sam talks me out of it.
Brown is an investor and freelance writer residing in Alpine